The son of a ship’s carpenter, Carmichael was apprenticed to a shipbuilder as a youth. Still, at the age of 23, he was able to set up a painting workship in Newcastle, and by 1847 he had a studio in London. Carmichael exhibited marine works at both the Royal Academy (1835–59) and the British Institution (1846–62). He gained firsthand experience of life at sea aboard British ships-of-the-line in the Baltic theatre of the Crimean War in both 1854 and 1855, and his images of these battles were published as engravings in the Illustrated London News.
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